Even a few years ago, the rice mills in the northern part of the country were in operation. The workers were busy drying paddy in the sun, boiling paddy and making rice from paddy. Unable to compete with the auto rice mills at present, about 12,000 mills in the northern region have closed one by one.
These rice mills have been shut down due to various reasons including inability to compete with the auto rice mills in procurement of paddy, reduction of food department allocation, high production cost, labor crisis. Many of these millers are spending their time in different professions or unemployed. As a result, the mill chatals are now a thing of the past.
At one time hundreds of trucks carrying rice from Mahiganj in Rangpur, Pulhat in Dinajpur, Bogra, Naogaon and Rajshahi used to go to different places of the country including Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna every day. Thousands of rice mill chatals were built in these areas around the rice business. Hundreds of people used to shout at the mill area even a decade ago. Many places feel like a dead city now that the mills have been shut down due to lack of paddy as they cannot compete with the auto rice mills.
It has been seen on the spot that Alhaj Maqbool Hossain, Azgar Ali, Faruk Hossain, Abdul Matin, Delwar Hossain Chowdhury and many others from Mahiganj area of Rangpur have taken up different professions.
The owners of the closed mill chatals said that 400 to 500 big traders and auto rice mill owners are controlling the rice business in the north. Auto rice mill owners and big traders pay the traders in advance for the paddy. As a result, traders are not interested in selling paddy to small mills. It has been given to the auto rice mills by reducing the allocation from the food department to the mills. Even if one or two people are allotted, their rice has to be taken to the auto rice mill and refined. They are also unable to compete with auto rice mills as production costs have multiplied. On the other hand, the labor crisis is also evident.
Sheikh Qasim, general secretary of the Rangpur Paddy Chatal Mill Owners’ Association, said demand for rice from auto rice mills has increased. People now prefer to eat auto rice mill rice. So the stocks of auto rice mills have increased. Because they have to keep the mill running all year round.